Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Malibu Red

Drinking the Bottom Shelf

Will Gordon drinks his way through the bottom shelf of the liquor store...so you don’t have to.


My friends Jen and Nils just had a kid, and though they failed miserably in the gender department, at least they tried to salvage the situation by giving their son a cool name: Kai. It's Norwegian for water or Finnish for fish, or something like that. They're into boats and such. Their bar is called The Bitter End, which I'm told also has some kind of nautical connection. Even their dogs are in on it. They go by...actually I can't remember; they're just dogs. Let's call them Sea Fido and Ocean Woof.

You can call a dog whatever you want without fear of affecting its future, but when you're dealing with a significant thing like a baby or a bar, a good name is of the utmost importance. I say this as a man with a serviceable but underwhelming name. If I'd been given a more ambitious name, I'm sure I would have achieved more in life, but on the other hand, at least I'm not some kind of sad sack Seth or Brad. You only name your kid something like that if you want him to be camp counselor or a war criminal.

I suppose I could change my name to something a bit grander, with some internal punctuation or at least a spare syllable. I read about a basketball player named J'Mison the other day. Pronounced like the whiskey? Let's say yes. That makes his name both clever and relevant! Maybe I could call myself O'lde Cr*ow.

Bottom Shelf research director Emily is named Emily, which is a pretty good name, but let's face it: It's the sort of thing you name your daughter if you intend for her to someday marry a Will. I don't think Emily has a middle name. That's the kind of information you might expect me to have, but when I asked her years ago the answer was more complicated than "Catherine" or "no," in fact I think it was some combination of those two things, and I haven't found the time to reinvestigate.

Emily's last name is a nice one, but also kinda standard-issue, and I suppose that within the next few months she'll have to decide whether to change it to Gordon. I don't have much opinion on that, which could be spun as either lack of interest or extreme enlightenment; let's call me progressive. It would probably be more convenient if we had the same last name, but then it would also confuse me for the first couple of years, since I've put so much effort into memorizing at least two thirds of her current name.

We could go the weird hippie route and make up a whole new last name, or the lawless J. Kenji Alt-Lopez-Hambone-Excalibur route and just start tacking extra parts onto our names whenever the spirit moves us. But we'll probably take a more conservative direction, and since we also won't be naming any pets or children or bars any time soon, that means we need to live vicariously through the cool names of others.

A kindly publicist sent us a new bottle of booze last week, about which I offer the following mixed review. Let's lead with the bad news that Malibu Red is a pretty lackluster name for a tequila, rum, and coconut liqueur hybrid. There's a good bit of red on the label, but the liquid itself is clear. Malibu Black—which is basically just a higher-proof version of the original Malibu coconut rum—has the good sense to be black, but I can't think of any reason why the Red isn't named Blue or Kai or any other little word.

But now that we've dealt with the bad news, time for the good: Not only is Malibu Red far less gross than it sounds—coconut tequila with a silly name?—but it's actually downright good. Malibu Red tastes exactly like it's supposed to: coconut rum and tequila in alternating waves, with coconut dominating the scent, then disappearing into a tequila middle before coming back at the end to leave you with coconut breath rather than fire breath.

It's very smooth and drinkable for a 70-proof hooch based on lower-middle class mixto tequila (Olmeca Blanco); if you're a shot-doer, this might be your kind of thing. I am not a shot-doer, but I'll happily finish this bottle with the help of nothing more than soda water and ice cubes. Emily likes it with pineapple juice, which isn't bad either. The bottle recommends mixing it with lemon-lime soda, which I think might be a bit of flavor overkill. I'm not sure I'd use the word "rum" in my description if I didn't read the label and know that Malibu is traditionally rum-based, but there's a whole lot of coconut and tequila character that strikes me as Sprite-resistant.

I'm not going to argue with anyone who dismisses coconut tequila as too weird. I like it, but I concede that it is strange stuff. But it's not nearly as trashy or mismatched as I'd feared, and I'd encourage the risk-takers among you to give it a whirl.